One year ago I wrote the following post about the Toronto Raptors:
“I can’t help thinking back to a couple of years ago when I went down to the Raptors’ open practice for my first look at our new team. I only stayed for about 20 minutes. I was despondent. These guys didn’t look at all like a team I could love. Vince Carter had lost his jump and Mo Pete was the only other guy that looked right in the uniform. As the long season wore on it was painfully obvious that my instincts were right on and this team sucked.
Well, it’s 2006 and there is new hope in Hogtown. Bryan Coangelo came into town with a broom and cleaned house. Some moves were bold and some were done out of necessity but none drew criticism. Most pundits agree that this year’s model could be the shiniest in years.
I headed downtown to the ACC with Mason a couple of weeks ago for the open practice and saw 15 players chumming around like best friends in the school yard. When I watch the highlights on TV of the team’s 7 victories in 8 preseason games I see an exciting spark. These guys look like a Tier One college team that’s ready to take on the NCAA tournament. I don’t mean that they don’t look like they can play at the NBA level. Quite the contrary. But add to their natural skills a sense that these guys are going to go to war for each other every night as though they had played together for the past four years and have come to the Final Four to cap their glory.
We all know the simple elegance and brilliance of Bosh but we will soon have the names Garbajosa, Bargnani and Calderon flowing off our tongues as easily as Ford, Jones and Tucker (players, not lawyers). Call them the 15 Musketeers, for that is what they are and I, for one, am looking forward to the second team swooping off the bench to save victories in distress.
Tonight is game one. Squeak, squeak, swish. Basketball is here to save us from the silly season.”
Well we all know what happened with that 2006 version of the Raptors – they won the Atlantic division and only inexperience kept them from winning round one of the playoffs. the new season kicks off tomorrow and the Eastern division of the NBA is now much stronger (with Boston’s acquisitions of ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and a healthy NJ nets roster). Though their opponents made bold moves, the raptors will probably be even more competitive than last season by standing pat, for the most part, with their roster.
My observation a year ago about the camaraderie seemed to be bang on the mark. These guys really seem to be looking out for one another and with a few minor shuffles the team should continue to turn heads again this year. Look for the Raptors to grace the cover of Sport Illustrated at some point this season as the most exciting team in the NBA. You read it here first!